“As a child, it’s the first activity that you do, except for eating bland sauce, sleeping and pooping,” says Baptiste Virot on why he was drawn to Illustration as a medium.
There was also one other reason that he cites almost above everything else too: “Illustration came naturally to me (like all the other kids in the world), but I stayed fascinated by it because I didn’t have a TV. I could draw every situation and picture I got in my head and I could produce an enormous amount of visual desire that I couldn’t get from a screen.”
If you think about it, this probably did have a huge impact on the amount that Baptiste drew. In fact, think of how much practice you would have had if you replaced all your cartoon watching hours with drawing time. “I was really frustrated to not have a television at home, so every time my parents and I were invited to a friend’s house, my first sentence before ‘Bonjour’ was ‘where is the tv?’” It obviously made Baptiste appreciate the telling of stories through drawing, and this is something that endures to this day. “The thing that I still really love about comics is that it’s the ecologic and economic cinema. You can create anything you want without any budget except a paper and pen and people can read your stuff without any electricity or gas. It’s called a book, amazing right?”
Anyway, that’s enough about trying to pinpoint the exact moment Baptiste realised he was going to be an illustrator, instead let’s talk about his brand new publication. In typically cryptic style he explains to us the premise: “Vivarium will be a series of collections of short stories and gags. It’s like an archive of my work, and like a magazine where I’m alone – it seems depressing but I’m really excited, my mood is perfect!”
He hopes to release a few issues each year, which will help him to ensure that he draws regularly, and also “so that readers don’t have to wait for one 100 page book every year.” If you are struggling to picture it then he likens it to Daniel Clowes’s EightBall, which he says is the closest comparison he can think of.
The style of the book is not uniform, and Baptiste enjoys the juxtaposition of different types of pages accompanying one another. “I like to have silent comics in full colours opposite pages in black and white with more text,” he says. “I also like to mix experimental with more classical comics, to create a dynamic, like a twister.” The format of the publication is also one that he hopes will encourage the casual reader too: “I really want my book to be bought as a magazine someone will grab on their way home and read in a café. Something light, with its A4 and 24 pages, easy to grab, but something you can put yourself into, laugh, be dizzy and dream about at night.”
The actual illustration style is just as difficult to pin down, and when asked, Baptiste seems to agree. “How can I describe my style? Ligne claire? Simple? Precise? Rotring 2.0? Funny? Comical? Weird?” he says. “This is the hardest question you can ask a comics artist!”
Despite being typically colourful and humorous, there are some serious undertones and themes within the book. “I’m developing inside Vivarium a series of comics called AntiCity. It talks about a future city that is aggressive for human beings, and is adapted depending on social class,” he explains. “Another one will be called Therapy and will address mental illness and psychiatry.”
To try and gain an insight into what inspires Baptiste we ask him who he currently admires in the field, however, he doesn’t give anything away. “I admire artists that I meet who are really friendly and beautiful people. I haven’t really ‘admired’ people since I was a teenager. Nobody is perfect and fanaticism is a dangerous path,” he says.
“But you want names I know it haha! I will think about it next time for Vivarium 2!”
GalleryBaptiste Virot: Vivarium
Baptiste Virot: Vivarium
About the Author
Charlie joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in December 2019. He has previously worked at Monocle 24, and The Times following an MA in International Journalism at City University. If you have any ideas for stories and work to be featured then get in touch.